by E.A. Poorman
It feels that there’s a new wave of music rolling into the Fort. It’s a mix of post-punk jangle, straight-up southern California punk, garage pop, and riot grrrl punch…and that’s just one band. That band? The Snarks. They play a mix of old school punk with a hefty dose of post-punk jangle guitar. The tunes at times sound like they could fly off the rails and explode into a ball of self-hatred and angst; and the next song has the precision of Chairs Missing-era Wire or early Mission of Burma.
It’s chaos. Well managed chaos.
The Snarks are Kendra Johnson on vocals(she of Timber!!!, Utah Spirit Babies, and Systematic Overthrow fame), Bart Helms on guitar(also of The End Times Spasm Band, Boat Show, and Thunderhawk), Zach Kerschner on guitar(and was also in Slow Pokes), Dan Kinnaly on bass(and played in Parasitic Twins), and Dan Amos on drums(and from Riverbottom Nightmare Band.) Founding member Ben Hoeppner played drums on the bands current E.P. Night at Crystal Beach. I was able to catch the band during some downtime and I asked them a few questions.
E.A. Poorman: So if you had to explain the sound of The Snarks, say, to your grandma, how would you describe your sound? What artists play heavily into the band’s sound?
Bart Helms: At practice we regularly reference Wire, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Bikini Kill, The Stooges, and X, but we all have our own influences. Dan K recently said that we’re united by a love of 70s rock of some kind or another, which is probably the most accurate way to put it. I lean toward the stuff at the outskirts of 70s punk and glam like Sparks and Devo.
E.A. Poorman: The Snarks put out a great EP called Night at Crystal Beach at the end of the year. It’s filled with tons of energy and punk jangle. Can you talk about the recording of the album? Where did you record it? How was the recording process? Do you all like studio time, or do you prefer playing live?
Bart Helms: Thanks. Jangle was my main concern. Punk forgot how to jangle in the 90s. We recorded it with Geoff Montgomery at The Ensomberoom. Despite only having played two shows beforehand, the recording process was quick because we knew what we wanted from each song and we practice regularly. Personally, I don’t dislike playing live by any means, but I could spend all my time in a studio and be happy. Tweaking amps, trying different chord voicings.
E.A. Poorman: I wanted to ask you about the songwriting process. Is it a full band thing where you get together in a rehearsal space and crank out songs? Or does one person bring some music to the band and you go from there? Who writes the lyrics?
Bart Helms: We write democratically and collaboratively. One of us might have a verse riff idea, but it doesn’t mean we’ll use that person’s idea for a chorus. Or what we thought was a chorus might become a bridge. I wrote the riff for “Suntanning Bitches” in 4/4, but Zach immediately turned it into a 7/4 thing. Then what Kendra half-jokingly suggested for a title became the outro.
E.A. Poorman: What’s a Snarks show like? What’s a successful gig in your eyes?
Dan Kinnaly: Lots of sock puppets, maximum rock and roll. When both of those things happen, it’s a successful gig.
Kendra Johnson: Inevitable goofy facial expressions and lots of shitty dancing on my part.
E.A. Poorman: Night at Crystal Beach is a nice tease at what The Snarks are all about. Are there any plans for more recording in 2015? Maybe a full-length in the not-too-distant future?
Bart Helms: We have plans to record soon, but we should probably not say how the songs will be used just yet. I’d like to do as much recording as we can afford. I think to release a full length these days, you have to have concept to tie it together. If you just have ten songs you like, it seems like you can get more attention releasing them as singles.
E.A. Poorman: So what does 2015 and beyond hold for The Snarks?
Kendra Johnson: Records, tons of new songs, loads of shows and hopefully everlasting fandom to reach beyond the galaxies…chased down by a gratuitous amount of Hornsby’s cider(tea for Dan A.)
The Snarks have it right, man. Somewhere along the way in the early 90s punk lost its jangle. Buzzing single coils were replaced with macho beefed-up mounds of humbucker crunch. Part of that late-70s punk magic was in the buzzing and hiss. It was informed by that manifesto of noise and art. The Snarks have put the noise and art back in punk and have elevated it back to it rightful place among the punk/post-punk royalty with names like Hell, Verlaine, Byrne, Smith, and Harry. Keep up with all things The Snarks at https://www.facebook.com/wearethesnarks, and you can pick up a copy of Night at Crystal Beach at http://thesnarks.bandcamp.com/. Download it or get yourself a copy on 7″ vinyl.
Just get out and see The Snarks. Who wants to miss sock puppets and shitty dancing? Not me.